Remembering and Forgetting: The Legacy of War and Peace in East Asia

In This Review

Remembering and Forgetting: The Legacy of War and Peace in East Asia

Edited by Gerrit W. Gong
Center For Strategic and International Studies, 1996
123 pp. $15.95

An uneven and not very well integrated group of essays on an important topic: How do Confucian societies develop a modern sense of national identity? Lucian Pye, one of academia's most insightful analysts of "political culture," notes that East Asian countries are in a "paradoxical fix," with grand traditions but tumultuous recent histories that have left them with many mental blockages. The Sinic civilization stands out as one of the great achievements of the human race, but the Chinese have more than 100 years of recent history that they seek to "suppress, deny, distort, or blatantly falsify." "The Japanese people," says Pye, act as though "they had no recollection of having started a major war," and Japan easily slips into the role of the underappreciated country. The South Koreans, although open to the world, lack a coherent modern national identity and close associations with other countries, see themselves as victims, and in a sense still inhabit a "hermit kingdom." These blocked memories result from some of the more profound characteristics of their shared Confucian tradition. In another insightful essay, Chas. W. Freeman, Jr., says the Chinese and Taiwanese people's image of each other stems from the divergent historical paths the two have taken during the past century, and he insists that the United States must make clear to Taiwan that it will not shed blood to prevent a change of Taiwan's name and flag.

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